Don’t hate me because I’m green

I recently read Robert Samuelson’s article called, “Prius Politics”. In the article, the author suggests that the Prius is a “parable” for global warming politics and proposes that owning a Prius is more about fashion than being environmentally responsible.

Lately there have been a few articles challenging the environmental premise of owning a Prius. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because the Prius is the symbol of “environmental correctness” and is one issue you can challenge without attracting outrage. And these days you cannot challenge too many politically correct issues and still keep your job.

I own a Prius. When I was looking for a new car a few years ago, the Prius frankly was not high on my list. However, I went to a CERES conference and heard a compelling presentation on global climate change. The presentation was so alarming that I came home and decided to buy the Prius. There were not many hybrid choices at that time, so maybe I bought the Prius out of guilt? I do like the fact that the mileage or fuel economy is excellent and the exhaust emissions are very low. My wife and I even trade cars on days she plans to do a lot of driving.

After I purchased the car, I found out about the tax break and just recently, the Prius was approved for HOV lanes across Arizona. These items make me feel better about my purchase. It’s pretty simple for me: the car gets excellent mileage, I save money on gas, it’s quiet, has low emissions, I can drive in the HOV lane, and I do feel some pride of ownership that I am trying to do the right thing for the environment. I don’t try to make judgments about what other people should or should not be driving, or how many kids they should have, or if they should eat meat or not. It’s not a religion for me, it’s just a car.

10 Responses to Don’t hate me because I’m green

  1. Lord Volton says:

    I believe the strategic situation abroad has changed dramatically in recent years and made plug in hybrids almost a necessity. When we factor in potentially 1 trillion spent on overseas oil to simply protect the flow a plug in hybrid starts to look pretty good.
    The electron economy is upon us, as others have noted.
    The Tesla Roadster and the Chevrolet Volt hold great promise. No more trips to the gas station, well, for most of us anyway.
    I can’t wait!
    P.S. I wonder if there are any opportunities for Intel as cars shift from petrol to electricity?

  2. Marcy says:

    Gary! I bought my Prius a few years ago after I decided it was time to align my personal values with my lifestyle. I was in the market for a new car after moving back to the states from overseas and wanted another Subaru Outback – I LOVE that car!. But a bit of research uncovered that they cost the same as a basic, no-frills Prius (which was the only one I could afford as I was in grad school at the time). And there was nothing the Outback could do that a Prius couldn’t handle, other than off-road driving, which I hadn’t done in about 5 years. So I went for it.
    I wish I could say that I don’t make judgments about the kinds of cars people drive – I do. My sister drives a dirty old 4Runner and I am horrified – I bought her a TerraPass for Hanukkah!
    I don’t mind that my car makes a statement about who I am. It was a major reason for me getting it actually. Sure, I save lots of money, drive in the carpool lane through thickets of Silicon Valley traffic and still manage to throw all my triathlon crap in the back with room to spare! And yes, I know I have a cloud of smug over my car. But I don’t mind. And I don’t mind if the Simpsons make fun of me for it either!

  3. JeremyS says:

    Samuelson’s article is good, he’s pretty much right on. To follow on that road, check out this article Green Consumers and the Mushiness Index. I think the basic theme here is that many of these changes require behavioral change. Because of that, we’re all in trouble. 🙂

  4. notchris says:

    Jeremy – Samuelson’s argument is silly. Quite simply, he is well-behind the curve. Wal-Mart is almost 8 months into a commitment to sell 100 million CFL’s this year, organics is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the food economy, front-loading clothes-washers are now over 35% of the market and the Prius remains a much sought-after car (mine sold after three days on the market for more than I asked for). Consumers are changing – you aren’t.

  5. Karl Weber says:

    Actually, Samuelson’s article was one of the silliest I’ve seen in a long time. His basic argument seemed to be: “Smug liberals buy Priuses as a symbolic gesture. But symbolic gestures are meaningless. Instead we should be taking steps to reduce waste and cut emissions.” Problem is, driving a Prius DOES reduce waste and cut emissions–a point you would think Samuelson would address. But instead he ignores it, apparently because he finds liberals so annoying it prevents him from thinking straight.

  6. Perry Gruber says:

    Samuelson’s article didn’t strike me as silly. It seemed reasonable and I agree with the regulations he point out are needed. I also agree though that they are unlikely to prevail against the onslaught of private interest lobbies. Could the silliness factor of his article be directly tied to the degree to which we feel smug about our eco-decisions?
    There are many ways to cut your emmissions. Purchasing a new hybrid is one. I choose to hold on to my 2000 model gas-powered small car (it gets 29 MPG…pretty good for a luxury sport car) for another seven years, (I suspect hybrid cars will be much better by then and there also will be more choices), choose alternative transportation (my car hardly leaves the garage these days, especially on the weekends) including walking, riding my two bikes, working from home many days and taking public transportation when practical.
    There’s a smug factor in any activity that allows one to thumb one’s nose at the status quo when the status quo is behaving badly. Prius drivers choose to enact their smug factor with their car keys (apologies to Gary my colleague). I get equal measure as I speed though chocked rush hour traffic on my Gary Fisher.
    I think Samuelson has a point.

  7. Brandon Clinger says:

    No one can dispute the fact that we aren’t affecting the environment. That is just ignorant to say we aren’t affecting it. Then in turn no one can dispute the fact that the prius is healthier for the environment than a conventional car. Toyota is doing a good job with bringing hybrid technology to the masses. Camrys are hybrids, the Toyota Highlander SUV can be a hybrid…etc. Hybrids are smart, they use wasted energy and turn it into usable energy, which in turn saves me money and reduces the tonage of CO2.

  8. Michelle says:

    I have a 2006 Prius and love it. I bought it so that I had more control over my monthly expenses and wasn’t so dependent on the price of gas. I get 50 mpg, live on a dirt road in the farmland of Nebraska, and commute 45 min to work.
    I love the vehicle stability control and with snow tires, I get around great in the winter. I paid $24,500 and with the tax break that cost me just over $21,000.
    The increase in gas prices causes all prices to go up, but at least I don’t have such large fluctuations in my budget every month from driving to and from work.
    I also have a Ford F150, but I drive it only sparingly since it costs so much to fill up its two tanks. People should really think before writing anti-Prius articles because some people are just waiting for a scapegoat on whom to vent their anger. I don’t feel smug, I feel scared about the price of oil and how under-prepared we are as a country to deal with that.

  9. Christy says:

    When I visited my daughter who lives in Beverly Hills last summer, I requested a Prius from Hertz (part of their Green collection). It really hit the mark on two levels: 1) we got terrific mileage while driving all over that road-congested town, and 2) the Prius was viewed in that class-crazy society as a prestige vehicle…you never know if a movie star is behind the wheel…so we weren’t seen as as suspect when driving in the residential areas where luxury vehicles are the norm. I highly recommend requesting a Green car next time you go to Hertz. I’ll do the same next summer when I’m on sabbatical in Europe since Hertz has now extended their Green program overseas.

  10. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2007, the 2008 Prius is the most fuel efficient car sold in the U.S.[2] The UK Department for Transport also reported the Prius is tied as the third least CO2-emitting vehicle on sale in the UK